- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2001

BALTIMORE — I went out to Camden Yards yesterday to watch our ballclub. No, not the Baltimore Orioles forget them. I mean Washington's own, honest-to-goodness team of the future.

Right now they're called the Montreal Expos, but if the stars are aligned right in the heavens and certain people in baseball get their heads straight, they'll have a different name next season.

The Washington Nationals Nats to every fan within shouting distance live again!

How do I know?

I don't, but I have a hunch that we're finally going to hit paydirt after 30 years of bad luck when it comes to having our own team to love, honor and overpay to watch. And if the law of averages doesn't apply in baseball, what hope is there for Western civilization?

I know the obstacles are enormous. There are no plans in place for a new ballpark, and the Collins and Malek ownership groups disagree totally whether a team should be in the District or Northern Virginia. Some baseball men worry that a team here would cripple what has been a cash cow in Baltimore, although Peter Angelos' mismanagement of the Orioles seems to be accomplishing that already. Did you notice the ocean of empty seats yesterday on a gorgeous day for baseball?

Commissioner Bud Selig and his minions have been blathering about contraction, which is the worst baseball idea since the designated hitter. And they've been hiding behind the "tradition" that no club has moved since the expansion Senators went thataway to Texas after the '71 season, as if the game's movers and shakers cared about fans in the first place.

So although it's no sure thing that the Expos are coming, the timing appears right. Why should fans in Montgomery and Prince George's counties give a rodent's rump about the O's anymore, considering how Angelos has treated them? (For that matter, why should fans in Charm City care either?)

OK, so many of us have spent 20 years admiring Cal Ripken. But this almost surely is his last season ominously, his batting average at age 40 is flirting with the Mendoza Line and who do we have to revere down the road? I mean, Jerry Hairston is a nice ballplayer, but …

Up in Quebec, meanwhile, the Expos are dying faster than flowers in October. During a seven-game homestand that ended last week, they averaged 5,902 paying customers or, if you prefer, 40,718 seats with no rear ends in them at Stade Olympique. The Canadiens probably could get more people than that to watch them eat breakfast.

Projecting their figures over the entire season, the Expos would draw 710,289, which might not even be enough to pay slugger Vladimir Guerrero's salary.

Above all, the Expos belong in Washington. We have a long and dishonorable history of bad teams, and their record of 24-39 fits right in.

I knew this was destined to be our team when leadoff man Terry Jones beat out an infield single to start yesterday's game and promptly pulled his left hamstring running to first. In the fifth inning, Milton Bradley a gamer if there ever was one stole second but was tagged out when he overslid the bag, helping to kill a rally in a one-run game. This stuff smacked of the old Senators, not to mention Brooklyn's infamous Daffiness Boys of the '20s.

There are other similarities, too. Washington had more than its share of lousy owners like Calvin Griffith, Pete Quesada and Bob Short, and the dunderheads who ran the Expos before Jeffrey Loria managed to unload folks like Pedro Martinez, Larry Walker and Andres Galarraga. Eh?

Besides, if the Expos don't move to our fair city, where then? Las Vegas would be a gamble, it always rains in Portland and Charlotte only cares about ACC basketball. Plus, owner Loria is an art dealer, right? He could spend untold hours evaluating treasures at the Corcoran, National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian when the Nats are on the road.

It would be especially neat for us, too, that for the first time since 1899, we would be a National League city, free of such horsehide horrors as the DH and the Yankees. And wouldn't you like to see Big Mac, Sammy, Barry and Junior bashing baseballs halfway to Richmond like latter-day Frank Howards?

So it seems inevitable to me that the Expos will migrate to the capital of the free world they wouldn't even have to change their red, white and blue colors. For the first time since I was in a demographically relevant age group, I expect to be watching major league baseball in my hometown very soon.

All I have to do is wait.

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